Communications plan forces split

Vernon council was clearly divided Monday when proceeding with protocols for external and internal communications

Vernon’s new strategic communications plan certainly has people talking.

Council was clearly divided Monday when proceeding with protocols for external and internal communications wound up in a 4-2 vote.

“I have a real issue with the amount of policies we have,” said Coun. Catherine Lord, who opposed the plan along with Coun. Bob Spiers. “We’re not big enough to have a spin-doctor.”

A similar response also came from Spiers.

“This is basically a public relations, propaganda exercise,” he said.

“It’s too confusing and unnecessary. It’s a 100-page report that could have been done in a couple of pages – is that how we will do it (communicate)?”

However, the rest of council endorsed the need for a communications strategy.

“I believe this is a necessary exercise,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, adding that the city must be consistent when dealing with the public.

“We often hear from our citizens that there are confusing messages.”

A communications plan had been identified as part of council’s strategic priorities.

“It’s part of providing a good service to the public and if we can’t communicate with the public in an efficient manner, then we’re not doing our job,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

Sawatzky believes an advance focus on communications could lead to fewer conflicts with residents when the city proposes capital projects, major expenditures or changes in traffic patterns.

The communications plan is believed to be the first one ever adopted by the city.

“This was created completely from the beginning with Vernon in mind,” said Tanya Laing Gahr, communications co-ordinator.

“This plan is necessary to clearly and effectively tell our story and to ensure that mayor and council’s strategic goals and actions in support of those goals are communicated to the media, the public, to funding bodies and other governments.”

Among the messages outlined in the document are council “making sound budget management a priority while protecting essential services,” and council “providing sustainable investment in city infrastructure.”

The plan calls for the standardization of all of the city’s visual communications, while the city crest will be used to represent council while a separate logo will be used for all other communications.

It’s anticipated the communications plan will be implemented through existing financial resources.